For the third time in six weeks, initial claims for unemployment in regular state programs rose. The number of new claims grew to 419,000 from 368,000, according to data from the Department of Labor.
Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected a slight drop to 350,000 new claims for the week.
The increase comes as the delta variant is driving an alarming increase in infections around the country. And as federal programs to provide extra weekly benefits and to cover self-employed and gig workers not included in regular state unemployment programs are set to expire in September. Nearly half of U.S. states have, however, acted to end these federal programs earlier, arguing that increased unemployment payments discourage unemployed workers from going back to work. (Recent analysis of government data doesn’t show that states that have ended these programs are seeing an increase in workers taking jobs.)
Figuring out what any of this means is complicated by the acceleration of new infections from the Delta variant. At other points in the pandemic, a rise in infections has correlated with a rise in unemployment claims.